Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movie review - "Unforgiven" (1992) ****

A superior Western, of course, but one can't help get the feeling it was over praised. Had it been made in the 1970s when originally written I think people would have gone "oh good movie" but it wouldn't have earned all those Oscars. Or maybe not - who knows?

It's lovingly shot and designed, and was made with a lot of care - Clint really tried wiht this one. Like all Clint Eastwood films it feels over long. I kind of know why the Richard Harris sequence was in there (it all tied in with myth of the West and so on) but it could have been cut.

I felt many of the things people liked about it were gimmicky reversals or not really that different - the braggart kid (Jaimz Woolvett, who was discovered in this movie and then seemed to disappear) turns out to have never killed anyone and be short sighted (you can kind of see that coming from the moment he says "I've killed heaps of people"... it's not that much fresher than James Caan in El Dorado); the wise side kick (Morgan Freeman) is black and has an Indian wife and... that's kind of about it, he's still pretty much a stock noble black sidekick (he's wise, decent and dies); Clint Eastwood rolling around in the pig sty at the beginning and not being able to ride a horse, but by the end of the film is still the same super human hard arse we've always had. The device of a journalist reporting on events isn't that fresh.

I also felt it didn't really deconstruct the myth of the west as much as people seemed to think it did - hookers still have hearts of gold. the vengeance becomes personal. We hear a lot about how Clint and Freeman used to get drunk and kill women and children back in the day, but we never see it here - every single person Eastwood and his pals kill deserve to die. It would have been a different movie if at the end while on his killing spree Eastwood did shoot some innocents such as the prostitutes - it wouldn't have been the hit it became but that would have been deconstructing myth.

But I did like the actual story - there's something primeval about prostitutes being ignored by the law and banding funds to pay for an assassin. I loved how the killers of the old west are depicted as being drunk and mean most of the time. And some touches did feel fresh, like Gene Hackman working on his porch, and a cowboy taking ages to die from a bullet wound in the hot sun, and the friend of the slashing cowboy providing the injured prostitute with a horse. The characters have great names and there's fantastic dialogue, and the final shoot out gave me chills down my spine.

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